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We’ve been in Afghanistan, we didn’t like it – Russia’s NATO envoy

We've been in Afghanistan, we didn't like it - Russia's NATO envoy

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October 27, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russia’s envoy to NATO on Wednesday dismissed reports that Russian troops could be sent back to Afghanistan two decades after the Soviet Union’s Red Army was forced out by U.S.-backed mujahedeen.

“We’ve already been in Afghanistan and we didn’t like it much,” Dmitry Rogozin told RIA Novosti.

The UK newspaper The Guardian said on Tuesday the proposal was on the table ahead of a landmark Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon next month.

The paper said Moscow and Brussels were discussing joint initiatives including “the contribution of Russian helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, possible Russian assistance in training Afghan national security forces, increased co-operation on counter-narcotics and border security, and improved transit and supply routes for NATO forces.”

“Maybe someone wants Russia to supply cannon fodder to Afghanistan,” Rogozin went on.

The Soviet Union was involved in a bitter decade-long conflict in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. A million Afghan civilians and fighters are estimated to have lost their lives during the fighting. Some 15,000 Soviet soldiers also perished, and the return of Russian soldiers to the country would also be extremely unpopular in Russia.

The war had a profound impact on the Soviet Union, and has been cited as one of the key factors in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Rogozin also said that Russia-NATO cooperation in Afghanistan consisted of training for Afghan and Pakistan police involved in the fight against drugs, transit and “the implementation of the so-called helicopter package.”

Russia is competing for a U.S. tender to supply Mi-17 helicopters to Afghanistan.

Russian crews will train Afghan pilots, but not in Afghanistan, Rogozin said. He also said that the issue of improved transit arrangements “has never been raised.”

BRUSSELS, October 27 (RIA Novosti)

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Photostream : Britain’s PM David Cameron meets Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus

 

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron , right, meets General David Petraeus, left, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, inside 10 Downing Street, central London Thursday Oct.14, 2010. The talks in London have been overshadowed by revelations that a kidnapped British aid worker may have been killed by her American rescuers _ rather than her Taliban captors as first reported. .(Getty Images / AP Photo/ Daniel Deme, pool)

 

 

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) speaks to ISAF Commander General David Petraeus (L) at 10 Downing Street in Central London October 14, 2010. ( REUTERS/Pool/Daniel Deme )General David Petraeus leaves 10 Downing Street after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron on October 14, 2010 in London, England. Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has called for an investigation into the death of British aid worker Linda Norgrove, who was held hostage in Afghanistan. Ms Norgrove died after a failed rescue opperation by US forces on October 8, 2010 in Afghanistan. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

 

 

U.S. General David Petraeus leaves Downing Street after his meeting with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in London October 14, 2010. ( REUTERS/Toby Melville )

 

 

General David Petraeus leaves 10 Downing Street in London Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. British Prime Minister David Cameron raised the case of a slain British aid worker in a Downing Street meeting Thursday with NATO's top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. David Petraeus. Cameron earlier this week revealed that Linda Norgrove, a kidnapped British aid worker, may have been killed by her American rescuers _ rather than her Taliban captors as first reported. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

 

Karzai, Petraeus Visit South Afghanistan

Gen. David Petraeus, left, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry listen to Afghan President Hamid Karzai as he talks to Afghans in Argandab district of Kandahar province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010. (GettyImages)

 

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October 09, 2010 (KATAKAMI) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai and top U.S. General David Petraeus are visiting the southern province of Kandahar, where coalition forces are engaged in a major operation against the Taliban.

U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry also is accompanying the Afghan president, who is expected to meet with tribal elders Saturday to rally support for his government and for international forces.

NATO and Afghan troops are trying to drive the Taliban out of its southern stronghold with a military offensive called Operation Dragon Strike.

In another development, the British Foreign Ministry says a British aid worker kidnapped in Afghanistan was killed by her captors during a rescue attempt.  Linda Norgrove and three Afghan colleagues were abducted September 26 in the eastern province of Kunar.

Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed “deep sadness” in a statement Saturday confirming Norgrove’s death.

Also, a spokesman for Italy’s Defense Ministry, General Massimo Fogari, says four Italian troops were killed and another was wounded in an attack in western Afghanistan.  He said the soldiers’ convoy was first struck by a roadside bomb, before insurgents attacked with gunfire.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he was saddened by the “tragic ambush.”

Italy has about 3,400 soldiers in Afghanistan, deployed mostly in the west.

On Friday, a bomb blast at a mosque in northern Afghanistan killed 13 people, including the governor of Kunduz, Mohammad Omar, who frequently spoke out against the Taliban and had escaped at least two previous attempts on his life.

VOICE OF AMERICA (VOA)

Bomb kills Afghan governor, 15 others-official

 

(Getty Images)


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(KATAKAMI) – A bomb attack inside a mosque killed the governor of Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province and 15 others as they attended Friday prayers, the local police chief said.

 

The attack on governor Mohammed Omar happened in neighbouring Takhar province, where he had a home. At least 20 people were wounded.

 

“The situation is chaos, we do not know whether it was a suicide attack or whether the bomb was already planted in the mosque,” Shah Jahan Noori, police chief for Takhar province, told Reuters.

 

It was the most serious attack since parliamentary elections last month, when a wave of assaults killed at least 17 people as the Taliban vowed to disrupt polling.

 

The war in Afghanistan, now in its tenth year, is at its bloodiest since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban.

The insurgency has spread to northern parts of the country, that until recently were relatively peaceful, from its heartland in the south and east.

 

Attacks during Friday prayers are relatively rare in Afghanistan. In July, a candidate for parliamentary elections was killed by a bomb planted in a mosque in eastern Khost province.

 

More than 2,000 foreign troops have been killed since the war began — over half in the last two years — and U.S. President Barack Obama and his NATO allies are under pressure at home over the increasingly unpopular war.

 


REUTERS

Karzai Reaches Out to Taliban in New Afghan Peace Council

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, speaks during the inaugural session of Afghanistan’s new peace council in Kabul, Afghanistan, 7 Oct. 2010 (AP)

 

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October 08, 2010 (KATAKAMI) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai used the anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan to open the inaugural session of a peace council appointed to help reconcile with the Taliban and other militant groups.

President Karzai offered peace to the Taliban nine years to the day after U.S.-led forces began their effort to topple the group’s government in Kabul.

Mr. Karzai opened the 70-member council meeting.

The Afghan leader said he hoped the High Council for Peace will make the desire of peace and stability a reality for the nation. He said Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development are linked to peace and stability.
The council includes former Taliban officials as well as past Afghan presidents, civilian and religious leaders.
President Karzai made a special appeal to members of the Taliban in their main language, Pashto.

He called again on opposition forces, the Taliban and any Afghan citizen inside or outside of the country to use the opportunity to forge peace.

The U.S. government has expressed support for Mr. Karzai’s long-standing efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban.

For months, there have been scattered reports that the Karzai administration has been involved in secret talks with the militant group. But the Taliban leadership officially has dismissed the possibility of reconciliation until foreign forces leave the country.

Afghan political analyst Wadir Sapai says he believes that the Taliban will accept a timeline for a coalition withdrawal only if the Afghan government meets its other basic demands, which include government recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group with sovereignty within its regional strongholds.
Sapai says the Taliban inadvertently finds itself with allies in the current Afghan government, who are echoing its call for changes to the country’s constitution.

“Even the opposition of the present government also wants this amendment, which would be a parliamentary regime with a prime minister and limited authorities for the president,” he said.

Sapai says that a lack of trust in the Afghan government contributes to the belief that Afghanistan has lost more than it has gained after nine years of war.

“Afghanistan has lost in the security sphere, in the economic sphere, in the political sphere and also in the nation building,” he added. “Afghanistan has not gained anything for society, nothing for the peace [and] nothing for the region.”

This year has been the deadliest of the war, with more than 560 foreign troops killed. More than 2,000 foreign troops have died since 2001. As coalition and Afghan forces push deeper into Taliban-controlled territory in the south, analysts warn that the number of causalities will increase.

VOA

US deaths in Afghanistan hit record in 2010

In all, 1,270 US troops have lost their lives since the conflict began with the US-led invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001. — Photo by AP

September 01, 2010

KABUL (KATAKAMI / DAWN.COM) —  The number of US soldiers killed in the Afghan war in 2010 is the highest annual toll since the conflict began almost nine years ago, according to an AFP count Wednesday.

A total of 323 US soldiers have been killed in the Afghan war this year, compared to 317 for all of 2009, according to a count by AFP based on the independent icasualties.org website.

Foreign forces suffered a grim spike in deaths last month as the Taliban insurgency intensified, with Nato confirming on Wednesday that a sixth US soldier was killed on one of the bloodiest days this year.

At 490, the overall death toll for foreign troops for the first eight months of the year is rapidly closing in the number registered in all of 2009, which at 521 was a record since the start of the war in late 2001.

A total of 80 international soldiers died in the Afghan war last month, 56 of them Americans.

In all, 1,270 US troops have lost their lives since the conflict began with the US-led invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday warned that the United States faced a “very tough fight” in Afghanistan, with more casualties and “heartbreak” to come.

“We obviously still have a very tough fight in Afghanistan,” Obama told troops in Texas as the United States marked the formal end of combat operations in Iraq.

“We have seen casualties go up because we are taking the fight to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban,” Obama said. “It is going to be a tough slog.”

Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) confirmed that a sixth US soldier died on Tuesday, killed in an insurgent attack in the south of the country.

This followed the previously announced deaths on Tuesday of another five US soldiers, four of them killed in a roadside bomb attack.

Twenty-five Americans have died since Friday.

Military leaders say the spike in deaths reflects the injection of additional troops into the Afghan theatre, which leads to a higher number of battlefield engagements with Taliban-led insurgents.

US General David Petraeus, the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, said Tuesday that deployments would reach their full strength of 150,000 within days.

On Monday, eight Nato troops — seven Americans and an Estonian — were killed in bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan.

Icasualties.org is constantly updating its figures as soldiers wounded in battle die of their injuries after they have been evacuated from Afghanistan, sometimes days or weeks later.

Photostream : German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg visits Afghanistan

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (L) and the President of the lower house of parliament Norbert Lammert leave after a ceremony at a memorial for killed soldiers at the German Bundeswehr army camp Marmal in Masar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul in Afghanistan on August 28, 2010. Zu Guttenberg and Lammert are on a visit to German Bundeswehr armed forces serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. (Getty Images)

German soldiers listen to German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (2nd L) during his visit to the German Bundeswehr army camp Marmal in Masar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul in Afghanistan on August 28, 2010. Zu Guttenberg and Lammert are on a visit to German Bundeswehr armed forces serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.  (Getty Images)

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg talks to German Bundeswehr army soldiers during breakfast at camp Marmal in Mazar-e-Sharif, north of Kabul, August 29, 2010. Zu Guttenberg and the President of the lower house of parliament Norbert Lammert visited German Bundeswehr armed forces troops with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. (Getty Images)

German army Bundeswehr Major general Hans-Werner Fritz (3R), German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (R) and the President of the lower house of parliament Norbert Lammert (2R) attend a ceremony a memorial for killed soldiers at the Bundeswehr camp Marmal in Masar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul, August 28, 2010. Zu Guttenberg and Lammert visit German Bundeswehr armed forces with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. (Getty Images)

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (L) and the President of the lower house of parliament Norbert Lammert attend a ceremony at a memorial for killed soldiers at the German Bundeswehr army camp Marmal in Masar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul, August 28, 2010. Zu Guttenberg and Lammert visit German Bundeswehr armed forces with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. (Getty Images)

NATO: Change in command won't affect Afghanistan mission

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Brig. Josef Blotz

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June 27, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan – A NATO spokesman stressed today that military operations to secure vast areas of Afghanistan would not be delayed by the ouster of the top commander in the war and mounting casualties.

NATO and U.S. forces are continuing their work as they await the arrival of new commander Gen. David Petraeus. He is taking over from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was ousted by President Barack Obama after he and his aides were quoted in Rolling Stone magazine making disparaging remarks about top Obama administration officials.

There has been concern that the leadership shake-up will further slow a push into the volatile south that has already been delayed by weeks in some areas and months in others. But NATO spokesman Brig. Josef Blotz told reporters in Kabul that the worries are unwarranted and the military is not pausing because of the changes.

“We will not miss a beat in our operations to expand security here in Afghanistan,” Blotz said, repeating the assurances of many diplomats in recent days that the change in leadership does not mean a re-evaluation of strategy.

The top American military officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, flew to Afghanistan on Saturday to assure President Hamid Karzai that Petraeus would pursue the policies of his predecessor, including efforts to reduce civilian casualties.

Blotz said Petraeus was expected in Kabul in the next seven to 10 days.

Operations appear to be continuing apace, according to NATO statements. Two recent air strikes in the north, east and south killed at least nine militants, including two local Taliban commanders, NATO and Afghan officials said. No civilians were injured, NATO said.

Eight other militants were killed in a NATO-Afghan military operation in eastern Ghazni province, according to Gen. Khail Buz Sherzai, the provincial police chief.

NATO deaths also are climbing daily. A U.S. service member was killed in a bomb attack in the south and two others in a firefight in the east on Sunday, said Col. Wayne Shanks, a U.S. forces spokesman.

June has become the deadliest month of the war for NATO troops with at least 93 killed, 56 of them American. For U.S. troops, the deadliest month was October 2009, with a toll of 59 dead.

Blotz said the deaths do show that the fight is getting harder in Afghanistan, but said that does not affect NATO’s resolve.

“We are in the arena. There is no way out now. We have to stay on. We have to fight this campaign,” he said.

Blotz said about 130 middle- to senior-level Taliban insurgents have been killed or captured in the past four months.

But Taliban attacks against those allied with the government or NATO forces have also surged. In the latest such violence, the headmaster of a high school in eastern Ghazni was beheaded by militants on Saturday, the Education Ministry said. A high school in the same district — Qarabagh — was set on fire the same day.

Karzai backs new U.S. commander in Afghanistan

Adm. Mike Mullen: "My message will be clear: nothing changes about our strategy."
Adm. Mike Mullen: “My message will be clear: nothing changes about our strategy.”


June 26, 2010

 

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Afghanistan’s president has backed the selection of Gen. David Petraeus as the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, saying he is “experienced” and an “expert commander” with knowledge of his war-torn nation.

President Hamid Karzai made the comments Saturday as he met Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a statement from Karzai’s office said.

Later Saturday, Mullen flew to Islamabad to meet with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, and U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson also attended the meeting, which dealt with bilateral relations, the fight against militants, and regional security, a Pakistani government press release said.

Mullen was in Afghanistan on a scheduled visit that took on new significance after Gen. Stanley McChrystal was removed from his position this week as commander of the Afghan war, a day after Rolling Stone magazine published critical comments about top White House officials by members of McChrystal’s staff.

President Barack Obama nominated Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command and the architect of the surge strategy in Iraq, to take McChrystal’s place.

According to the statement, Karzai told Mullen that McChrystal was an “excellent” military commander who worked to avoid civilian casualties, forge coordination between Afghan and international forces, and take “useful steps” in training, developing and equipping Afghan forces.

Mullen assured Karzai that Petraeus would continue these efforts.
// Both men said that improving the fight against terror and pursuing a lasting peace “is our priority and more important than any time before,” the statement said.

“Stunned” by the Rolling Stone article, Mullen had said he agreed with Obama’s decision to remove McChrystal. He had said that he planned to discuss the shift in leadership with Afghan military and civilian officials.

“My message will be clear: nothing changes about our strategy, nothing changes about the mission and nothing changes about the resources we are dedicating or the commitment we are making to defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies in the region,” Mullen said in a Pentagon press briefing Thursday. “We cannot lose the momentum we have together with our partners, allies and friends.”

An explosion near the foreign ministry in Kabul during Mullen’s visit Saturday caused a scare, but police said the blast was an accident and not an attack.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, a Taliban commander disguised as a woman was shot dead Friday night in Afghanistan when he fired at troops, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said.

Authorities identified the man as Ghulam Sakhi, the senior Taliban commander in northern Logar province.

ISAF said intelligence sources tracked Sakhi to a compound near the village of Qal-eh Saber in Pul-e ‘Alam district.

After Afghan troops called for women and children to leave a building, Sakhi came out with the group, disguised in women’s attire.

ISAF said he pulled out a pistol and a grenade and fired at troops. Afghan and coalition forces shot him and he dropped the grenade, which detonated and wounded a woman and two children.

Authorities say Sakhi was involved in improvised explosive device attacks, ambushes and indirect fire attacks. He also kidnapped and killed a National Directorate of Security chief in Logar province.

In other Afghan fighting, several insurgents in Zabul province were killed in a “precision airstrike” on Friday night and bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan killed three NATO-led service member on Saturday.  (*)

NATO says 4 troops die in Afghan helicopter crash

Six NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan

US soldiers wait to board helicopters in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

 

AP 

KABUL, Afghanistan – A military helicopter crashed during an early morning operation in southern Afghanistan on Monday, killing three Australian commandoes and an American service member, officials said.

Two other international service members were killed Sunday in separate bombings in the south, NATO announced without specifying nationalities. One of them was an American, according to a U.S. spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks.

The crash was being investigated but there were no indications of enemy involvement, NATO said in a statement.

The Australian government said three of the dead were Australians, and U.S. Lt. Col. Joseph T. Breasseale said the fourth service member killed was American.

Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said seven other Australian soldiers were wounded, two of them badly.

“This is a tragic day for Australia, and for the Australian defense force,” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in a statement to Parliament. “We know our mission in Afghanistan is hard, but this mission is critical for our common security.”

There were 15 people aboard the helicopter, 10 of them Australians, according to Australian Defense Minister John Faulkner.

The crash comes in a particularly deadly month for NATO forces. With the most recent deaths, at least 59 international troops, including 36 Americans, have died so far in June. That puts June among the deadliest months for international forces in the nearly nine-year war. The deadliest month so far for the military alliance was July 2009 when 75 troops, including 44 Americans, were killed.

The rising death toll underscores the precarious situation for Afghanistan’s international allies as violence has ramped up this summer.

The United Nations plans to pull some of its approximately 1,000 foreign staffers from the country in the next three months, according to a U.N. report issued last week. The world body has been facing recruitment and housing problems since it tightened security for staffers in the wake of an attack on a residential hotel in Kabul in October where U.N. election staffers were staying. Five U.N. employees died in the attack.

The goal, according to the report, is to reduce the number of U.N. staff in Afghanistan as much as possible without compromising the effectiveness of the mission.

Dan McNorton, a U.N. spokesman in Afghanistan, said that only support staff would be relocated. He would not give a figure on how many people will be moved, saying only that it was “a few” or “a small number.”

The helicopter crashed before dawn in southern Kandahar province, and the operation it had been part of was still ongoing, Houston said.

Other coalition helicopters that were part of the same push landed near the downed aircraft and airlifted out the wounded, he said. More details on the operation were not given.

NATO has launched a major operation to secure the biggest southern city, Kandahar, capital of the province where the Taliban were first organized in the 1990s.

Australia has some 1,500 troops in Afghanistan alongside NATO forces. Monday’s deaths take Australia’s military death toll in Afghanistan to 16.

Australia’s 1,550 troops in Afghanistan are based mainly in Uruzgan province, and are mostly involved in training Afghan security forces.

Photostream : British Prime Minister David Cameron in Afghanistan

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British Prime Minister David Cameron (C) meets British soldiers at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, on June 11, 2010. Cameron was forced to abandon a visit to a military base in Afghanistan on Thursday due to suspicions that Taliban insurgents might try to shoot down his helicopter. Making his first visit to Afghanistan as prime minister, Cameron earlier ruled out increasing Britain’s troop commitment and called for quicker progress to bring troops home.

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (4th L), watched by the Governor of Helmand Province, Gulab Mangal (R), talks to student farmers at Helmand Agricultural high school in Lashkar Gah, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan June 11, 2010. Cameron told troops on Friday they were not in Afghanistan for a “dreamy idea” or to build a model society, and pledged they would leave once Afghans could defend themselves.

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (C) speaks to British forces at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan June 11, 2010. Cameron told troops on Friday they were not in Afghanistan for a “dreamy idea” or to build a model society, and pledged they would leave once Afghans could defend themselves. On his first trip as prime minister to meet British troops in southern Afghanistan, Cameron said the new coalition he heads had a clear mission — defending Britain’s national security from the threat of attack by al Qaeda.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron (C) reads out a message to British soldiers from England national football coach Fabio Capello, describing them as the ‘real heroes’, during a visit to Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, on June 11, 2010. Cameron was forced to abandon a visit to a military base in Afghanistan on Thursday due to suspicions that Taliban insurgents might try to shoot down his helicopter. Making his first visit to Afghanistan as prime minister, Cameron earlier ruled out increasing Britain’s troop commitment and called for quicker progress to bring troops home.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron (C) meets British soldiers working in the post office at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, on June 11, 2010. Cameron was forced to abandon a visit to a military base in Afghanistan on Thursday due to suspicions that Taliban insurgents might try to shoot down his helicopter. Making his first visit to Afghanistan as prime minister, Cameron earlier ruled out increasing Britain’s troop commitment and called for quicker progress to bring troops home.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) tries a metal detector, used for finding IEDs planted by the Taliban, at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, on June 11, 2010. Cameron was forced to abandon a visit to a military base in Afghanistan on Thursday due to suspicions that Taliban insurgents might try to shoot down his helicopter. Making his first visit to Afghanistan as prime minister, Cameron earlier ruled out increasing Britain’s troop commitment and called for quicker progress to bring troops home.

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, centre, operates a metal detector, used for finding IEDs planted by the Taliban, at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, during his two day visit to Afghanistan, Friday June 11, 2010.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron has breakfast with British soldiers at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, on June 11, 2010. Cameron was forced to abandon a visit to a military base in Afghanistan on Thursday due to suspicions that Taliban insurgents might try to shoot down his helicopter. Making his first visit to Afghanistan as prime minister, Cameron earlier ruled out increasing Britain’s troop commitment and called for quicker progress to bring troops home.

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, centre, has breakfast with British soldiers, at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, during his two day visit to Afghanistan, Friday June 11, 2010.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron (5th L) goes for an early morning run with British soldiers at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, on June 11, 2010. Cameron was forced to abandon a visit to a military base in Afghanistan on Thursday due to suspicions that Taliban insurgents might try to shoot down his helicopter. Making his first visit to Afghanistan as prime minister, Cameron earlier ruled out increasing Britain’s troop commitment and called for quicker progress to bring troops home.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron (2nd R) goes for an early morning run with British soldiers at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, on June 11, 2010. Cameron was forced to abandon a visit to a military base in Afghanistan on Thursday due to suspicions that Taliban insurgents might try to shoot down his helicopter. Making his first visit to Afghanistan as prime minister, Cameron earlier ruled out increasing Britain’s troop commitment and called for quicker progress to bring troops home.

Photostream : Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron meets President Hamid Karzai

 

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (Centre R) walks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, (Centre L) at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, on June 10, 2010, on his first visit to Afghanistan since taking office. Cameron said Thursday that Britain would send no more troops to Afghanistan, in a televised press conference with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, shakes hands with British Prime Minister David Cameron prior to a meeting at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, June 10, 2010.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Kabul June 10, 2010. Cameron arrived in Afghanistan for talks with Karzai on Thursday, his first visit as prime minister to a country that his new coalition government has set as its top foreign policy priority.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Kabul June 10, 2010. Cameron arrived in Afghanistan for talks with Karzai on Thursday, his first visit as prime minister to a country that his new coalition government has set as its top foreign policy priority.

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (L) attends a joint news conference with President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, on June 10, 2010. Cameron said Thursday that Britain would send no more troops to Afghanistan, in a televised press conference with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron arrives in Kabul to hold talks with President Hamid Karzai, on June 10, 2010, on his first visit to Afghanistan since taking office. Cameron said Thursday that Britain would send no more troops to Afghanistan, in a televised press conference with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

Bomber Kills 40 at Afghan Wedding Party

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June 10: A father comforts his injured son at a hospital following a blast at wedding party in Kandahar city, Afghanistan.

 

June 20, 2010

( FOX NEWS / AP)  KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A homicide bomb ripped through a wedding party in full swing in the Taliban’s heartland in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 40 people and wounding dozens more, officials said Thursday.

The blast occurred late Wednesday in a housing compound where men had gathered during the festivities, with female guests at a different house that was not hit, one witness said. Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said children were among the dead and wounded.

The family that was attacked included a number of Afghan police officers. The groom’s brother and two of his cousins were in the police force, according to another cousin, Mohammad Alkozay. The groom survived the attack, but was injured.

It occurred in Nadahan village in the Argandab district of Kandahar province, considered the spiritual home of the Taliban, and the focus of an upcoming U.S. military operation.

Bashary said the explosion hit the wedding party about 9 p.m., and that it was a homicide attack. He said at least 40 people were killed and 74 were wounded in the blast. The bride and groom survived.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi denied the group carried out the attack.

U.S. military spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks said the deaths were not the result of an airstrike, and said any suggestion otherwise was “Taliban misinformation.”

NATO said in a statement that no service members from the alliance were involved in the incident.

Agha Mohammed, who survived the blast, said the guests were all seated and having a meal when the explosion occurred, sending a huge fireball and smoke into the sky.

He said the scale of the destruction caused by the blast was more than was common in a homicide attack.

“We have experience with war and this does not look like a homicide bombing,” Mohammed said.

At a news conference in Kandahar city, provincial Gov. Tooryalai Wesa held up a chunk of metal he said was from the site and described it as a piece of equipment usually used in homicide bombs.

He rejected the Taliban’s denial of involvement in the attack.

“The Taliban are doing two things at once,” Wesa said. “On one side they target people who are in favor of the government, then at the same time they don’t want people to know their real face.”

NATO condemned the attack and said it would help Afghan police investigate the cause.

“This ruthless violence brought to the Afghan people at what should have been a time for celebration demonstrates the Taliban’s sickening and indiscriminate tactics to try to intimidate the citizens of Afghanistan,” said Lt. Gen. Nick Parker, the deputy commander of NATO forces, in the statement.

President Hamid Karzai’s office condemned the attack in a statement and called for a thorough investigation.

Nadahan is a farming community on the northern border of Kandahar city. The surrounding district is a major route for insurgents to enter into the city — the commercial hub of the south. NATO forces have been battling insurgents in Argandab for months in an attempt to gain control of the area and it is expected to be a focus of a summer push to squeeze the Taliban out of the area.

Insurgents have often targeted civilian government officials and police in areas under their control and use violence on civilians to intimidate them. On Wednesday, the Taliban hanged a seven-year-old boy in public in Helmand province, neighboring Kandahar, for alleged spying, a local official said.

And in Spin Boldak district, insurgents dragged a local council member, Amir Mohammad Noorzai, from his house on Wednesday evening and shot him to death, said Zalmai Ayoubi, a Kandahar provincial government spokesman.

Violence has spiked in Afghanistan this month, with the Taliban stepping up attacks as U.S. commanders gear up for a major operation to clear Kandahar that Washington hopes will be a turning point in the nearly nine-year-old insurgency.

At least 17 U.S. service members have been killed in the past four days, including the four Americans who died Wednesday when insurgents in southern Helmand province’s Sangin district — one of the most volatile in the country — shot down a NATO helicopter.

A total of 29 NATO troops have been killed this month, including 10 on Monday alone — seven of them Americans. It was the deadliest day for the military alliance in seven months.

David Cameron: time to increase pace in Afghanistan

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Junee 10, 2010

(TELEGRAPH.CO.UK)   The Prime Minister said that British and coalition forces should examine how to go “further and faster” in order to bring troops home sooner.

He also promised to double the number of British bomb disposal teams in Afghanistan and announced extra aid to help the country build up its army, police and civil service in what he said was “the vital year” to make progress.

Speaking as he met Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, in Kabul, Mr Cameron said that the public in both Britain and America wanted to see “real progress this year”.

He said that people in both countries had accepted that time was needed to see results from US President Barack Obama’s troop surge.

But he said: “We should all the time be asking ‘Can we go further, can we go faster?’.

“Nobody wants British troops to be in Afghanistan a moment longer than is necessary.”

However he ruled out sending further reinforcements.

“The issue of more troops is not remotely on the UK agenda,” said the Prime Minister.

“We have just had quite a significant uplift, not just in terms of UK troops but also of US troops.

“In Helmand there are now over 20,000 US troops and 10,000 UK troops.

“I think it is important to let them get on with the very important work of delivering greater security in Helmand and making sure we have the right force density – the right number of troops – together with the Afghan national security forces throughout the province.”

Earlier Mr Cameron announced an additional £67 million to counter the threat from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), weeks after Colonel Bob Seddon, Britain’s senior bomb disposal officer, resigned his post after raising concerns for the welfare of his men.

Speaking alongside Mr Karzai at his presidential palace, Mr Cameron said the number of British teams dealing with IEDs will be doubled.

He also announced additional aid funding for Afghanistan to build up its army, police and civil service capacity in what he said was “the vital year” to make progress in stabilising the country.

Describing relations between the two countries as “very, very important”, Mr Cameron said he regarded Afghanistan as Britain’s most important foreign policy and national security issue.

Mr Cameron’s first major overseas trip since taking office is expected to form part of the new Government’s review of the mission in Afghanistan, which has lasted almost a decade and cost nearly 300 British lives.

Since entering No 10, Mr Cameron has overseen a “stocktake” of Britain’s Afghan strategy, consulting even outspoken critics of the current Nato strategy of supporting Mr Karzai’s regime and training his police and army.

So far, that review has not led to any significant change in Britain’s approach to Afghanistan, although government sources said the Coalition wants to play a more active role in shaping the international Afghan strategy.

The early days of the Coalition have been also marked by some public confusion over Britain’s Afghan aims.

Liam Fox, the defence secretary, has insisted the mission is about preventing regional instability and stopping al-Qaeda using Afghanistan as a base for terrorism, and not about the political development of a “13th century state”.

By contrast, Andrew Mitchell, the development secretary, has said that economic, social and political progress are essential to British success in Afghanistan.

Officials are privately concerned that UK influence in Afghanistan has been waning amid a surge in American troop numbers.

Britain has around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, making it the second largest contributor behind the US. A “surge” in American force levels will take US numbers in Afghanistan to 100,000.

Confirming the growing American dominance of the Afghan mission, a US Marine Corps general recently took over command of international forces in Helmand province, where around 8,000 British troops are based.

Some commanders have suggested that Britain should leave Helmand altogether and transfer its forces to Kandahar, where the next major Nato operation against the Taliban will soon begin.

However, Dr Fox this week confirmed that the Government rejects any move from Helmand, where most British lives have been lost.

Mr Cameron has previously spoken of a “timetable” for beginning the withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan, though officials insist that any withdrawal will be based on the ability of the Afghan security forces to operate unaided.

However, that “conditions-based” timetable may come under growing scrutiny in the months ahead.

Barack Obama has indicated that he wants US numbers in Afghanistan to start falling by July 2011.

With Nato allies including Canada also planning to reduce their forces in Afghanistan, Mr Cameron may soon come under increasing pressure to tell UK voters when British forces might leave the country.

The growing British death toll is also likely to push Afghanistan up the political agenda. A total of 294 British personnel have died in Afghanistan since 2001, more than were lost in the wars in the Falklands or Iraq.

The most recent British casualty was announced yesterday as Mr Cameron was flying to Afghanistan.

Col Seddon, of the Royal Logistic Corps, has been responsible for tackling the growing threat to troops posed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on the front line as the Army’s Principle Ammunition Technical Officer (PATIO).

He has resigned his commission and is due to leave in January amid concerns that previous cuts have left his team overstretched and undermanned.

Taliban fighters have successfully adopted roadside bomb tactics developed in Iraq making it the most deadly threat to British troops in Afghanistan.

Earlier this year two bomb disposal experts received the George Cross, which ranks alongside the Victoria Cross as Britain’s highest award for bravery, for “awe-inspiring and humbling” efforts to defuse IEDs in Afghanistan.

They include included Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid who was killed in October last year on what should have been the last day of his tour of duty while disarming his 70th roadside bomb.

David Cameron arrives in Afghanistan

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June 10, 2010

(TELEGRAPH.CO.UK)  Mr Cameron landed in Kabul on an RAF plane before holding talks with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

On his first major overseas trip since taking office, the Prime Minister is visiting a country where 10,000 British troops.

His visit is expected to form part of the new Government’s review of the mission in Afghanistan, which has lasted almost a decade and cost nearly 300 British lives.

Mr Cameron announced extra spending on armoured vehicles and other specialised equipment to protect British forces in Afghanistan from improvised explosive devices. (IEDs).

Since entering No 10, Mr Cameron has overseen a “stocktake” of Britain’s Afghan strategy, consulting even outspoken critics of the current Nato strategy of supporting Mr Karzai’s regime and training his police and army.

So far, that review has not led to any significant change in Britain’s approach to Afghanistan, although government sources said the Coalition wants to play a more active role in shaping the international Afghan strategy.

The early days of the Coalition have been also marked by some public confusion over Britain’s Afghan aims.

Liam Fox, the defence secretary, has insisted the mission is about preventing regional instability and stopping al-Qaeda using Afghanistan as a base for terrorism, and not about the political development of a “13th century state”.

By contrast, Andrew Mitchell, the development secretary, has said that economic, social and political progress are essential to British success in Afghanistan.

Officials are privately concerned that UK influence in Afghanistan has been waning amid a surge in American troop numbers.

Britain has around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, making it the second largest contributor behind the US. A “surge” in American force levels will take US numbers in Afghanistan to 100,000.

Confirming the growing American dominance of the Afghan mission, a US Marine Corps general recently took over command of international forces in Helmand province, where around 8,000 British troops are based.

Some commanders have suggested that Britain should leave Helmand altogether and transfer its forces to Kandahar, where the next major Nato operation against the Taliban will soon begin.

However, Dr Fox this week confirmed that the Government rejects any move from Helmand, where most British lives have been lost.

Mr Cameron has previously spoken of a “timetable” for beginning the withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan, though officials insist that any withdrawal will be based on the ability of the Afghan security forces to operate unaided.

However, that “conditions-based” timetable may come under growing scrutiny in the months ahead.

Barack Obama, the US President, has indicated that he wants US numbers in Afghanistan to start falling by July 2011.

With Nato allies including Canada also planning to reduce their forces in Afghanistan, Mr Cameron may soon come under increasing pressure to tell UK voters when British forces might leave the country.

The growing British death toll is also likely to push Afghanistan up the political agenda. A total of 294 British personnel have died in Afghanistan since 2001, more than were lost in the wars in the Falklands or Iraq.

The most recent British casualty was announced yesterday as Mr Cameron was flying to Afghanistan.

Taliban claim suicide attack on peace conference in Kabul

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AP 

June 2, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan – Security forces battled insurgents including at least one suicide bomber outside a national peace conference just as President Hamid Karzai opened the three-day meeting Wednesday in the Afghan capital.

A NATO spokesman said several insurgents were shot near the venue, and Afghan police said a suicide bomber detonated explosives, killing himself. There were no immediate reports of other casualties in the fighting, including among participants of the conference.

The multi-pronged attack started within minutes of Karzai beginning his opening address to some 1,600 dignitaries gathered for the conference, known as a peace jirga, in a huge tent pitched on a university compound in the city.

The Taliban, which had earlier threatened to kill anyone who took part, claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to The Associated Press.

Karzai was hoping that the jirga would bolster him politically by supporting his strategy of offering incentives to individual Taliban fighters and reaching out to the insurgent leadership, despite skepticism in Washington on whether the time is right for an overture to militant leaders.

About 10 minutes into his speech, Karzai was briefly interrupted by an explosion outside, which police said was a rocket fired from the west of the Afghan capital. Karzai heard the thud, but dismissed it, telling delegates, “Don’t worry. We’ve heard this kind of thing before.”

Soon afterward, an AP reporter nearby heard a loud explosion and saw smoke rising from a second apparent rocket attack that struck about 100 meters (yards) from the venue.

AP reporters gathered at a hotel near the venue to cover the conference via video link heard bursts of gunfire to the south of the venue.

Police officer Kamaluddin said a suicide bomber detonated explosives a few hundred yards (meters) from the tent, and that shooting between insurgents and Afghan forces was being reported. The only reported casualty was the bomber.

Security forces were rushing through the area and helicopters were flying overhead.

Some insurgents were shot, but reports were unclear as to how many, said a spokesman for international forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Joseph T. Breasseale.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said Wednesday that a group of four suicide attackers disguised in Afghan army uniforms had opened fire in an attempt “to sabotage and destroy this peace jirga.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said Afghan forces were surrounding a house about 500 yards (meters) from the conference venue where militants were apparently holed up.

Photostream : Afghan

Afghan soldiers look at a dog during an operation in Marjah, ...

Afghan soldiers look at a dog during an operation in Marjah, Helmand province February 21, 2010. NATO forces are facing strong resistance eight days into a major offensive in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters dig in to fight to the death.

U.S. Army flight medic Sgt. Nathaniel Dabney, of Prescott, Ariz.,   ...

U.S. Army flight medic Sgt. Nathaniel Dabney, of Prescott, Ariz., right, looks out the window as he transports an Afghan civilian boy with a gun shot wound aboard a U.S. Army Task Force Pegasus helicopter during a medevac mission, in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday Feb. 21, 2010, with the boy’s father is pictured at left. Pegasus crews have come under fire nearly every mission while on evacuating those wounded as U.S. and Afghan troops take part in the assault in the Taliban-held town of Marjah.

U.S. Army flight medic Sgt. Nathaniel Dabney, of Prescott, Ariz.,   ...

U.S. Army flight medic Sgt. Nathaniel Dabney, of Prescott, Ariz., comforts an Afghan civilian boy with a gun shot wound just after take off on a U.S. Army Task Force Pegasus helicopter, with father of boy looking on from behind, during a medevac mission, in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday Feb. 21, 2010. Pegasus crews have come under fire nearly every mission while evacuating those wounded as U.S. and Afghan troops take part in the assault in the Taliban-held town of Marjah. No names given and reason for gun shot wound unknown.

U.S. Marines carry an Afghan civilian boy with a gun shot wound   ...

U.S. Marines carry an Afghan civilian boy with a gun shot wound to a U.S. Army Task Force Pegasus helicopter during a medevac mission, in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday Feb. 21, 2010. Pegasus crews have come under fire daily while on missions evacuating those wounded as U.S. and Afghan troops take part in the assault in the Taliban-held town of Marjah.

Father Carl Subler, U.S. Cpt. Chaplain from Versailles, Ohio ...

Father Carl Subler, U.S. Cpt. Chaplain from Versailles, Ohio blesses a rosary of U.S. Army Sgt. Paul Bliss from Willits, CA of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, at the end of a mass service in an outpost in the Badula Qulp area, West of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010.

U.S. Cpt. Chaplain father Carl Subler, from Versailles, Ohio ...

U.S. Cpt. Chaplain father Carl Subler, from Versailles, Ohio blesses U.S. soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, at the end of a mass service in an outpost in the Badula Qulp area, West of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010.

U.S. Army Capt. Michael Kovalsky of Fords, N.J. , 26, of the ...

U.S. Army Capt. Michael Kovalsky of Fords, N.J. , 26, of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of the 5th Stryker Brigade reads the Gospels as father Carl Subler, U.S. Cpt. Chaplain from Versailles, Ohio celebrates a mass service in an outpost in the Badula Qulp area, West of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010.

U.S. soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, ...

U.S. soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, sit as father Carl Subler, U.S. Cpt. Chaplain from Versailles, Ohio celebrates a mass service in an outpost in the Badula Qulp area, West of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010.

U.S. soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, ...

U.S. soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, pray as father Carl Subler, U.S. Cpt. Chaplain from Versailles, Ohio celebrates a mass service in an outpost in the Badula Qulp area, West of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010.

U.S. soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, ...

U.S. soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, kneel as father Carl Subler, U.S. Cpt. Chaplain from Versailles, Ohio celebrates a mass service in an outpost in the Badula Qulp area, West of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010.

U.S. soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, ...

U.S. soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, kneel as father Carl Subler, U.S. Cpt. Chaplain from Versailles, Ohio celebrates a mass service in an outpost in the Badula Qulp area, West of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010.

Afghans walks in front of U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of ...

Afghans walks in front of U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines during an operation in Marjah, Helmand province February 21, 2010. NATO forces are facing strong resistance eight days into a major offensive in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters dig in to fight to the death.

An Afghan girl looks at U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the  ...

An Afghan girl looks at U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines during an operation in Marjah, Helmand province February 21, 2010. NATO forces are facing strong resistance eight days into a major offensive in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters dig in to fight to the death.

Afghans walks behind U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the ...

Afghans walks behind U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines during an operation in Marjah, Helmand province February 21, 2010. NATO forces are facing strong resistance eight days into a major offensive in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters dig in to fight to the death.

A Danish Leopard tank loader sits on his tank as he guards US ...

A Danish Leopard tank loader sits on his tank as he guards US army soldiers with Thorn Task Force, marines with 1/3 Charlie Company and British army soldiers with A Squadron, Household Cavalry Regiment as they clear IEDs from a main route in Trikh Nawar. Afghan police prepared on Sunday to take control of a town at the centre of a massive US-led offensive.

US army soldiers with Thorn Task Force and marines with 1/3 ...

US army soldiers with Thorn Task Force and marines with 1/3 Charlie Company clear Improvised Explosive Devices (IED)s with British army soldiers with A Squadron, Household Cavalry Regiment and a Danish Leopard Tank platoon in Trikh Nawar on the North Eastern outskirts of Marjah. Afghan police prepared on Sunday to take control of a town at the centre of a massive US-led offensive.

Afghan farmers sit next to Danish army Leopard tanks in Trikh ...

Afghan farmers sit next to Danish army Leopard tanks in Trikh Nawar on the North Eastern outskirts of Marjah. Afghan police prepared on Sunday to take control of a town at the centre of a massive US-led offensive, as US general David Petraeus said “tough fighting” continued.

A U.S. Marine from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines  ...

A U.S. Marine from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines walks during an operation in Marjah, Helmand province February 21, 2010. NATO forces are facing strong resistance eight days into a major offensive in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters dig in to fight to the death.

U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines  ...
U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines walk during an operation in Marjah, Helmand province February 21, 2010. NATO forces are facing strong resistance eight days into a major offensive in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters dig in to fight to the death.
A U.S. Marine from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines  ...

A U.S. Marine from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines gestures during an operation in Marjah, Helmand province February 21, 2010. NATO forces are facing strong resistance eight days into a major offensive in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters dig in to fight to the death.

A U.S. Marine from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines  ...

A U.S. Marine from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines provides medical help to a woman wounded last week during fighting in Marjah, Helmand province February 21, 2010. NATO forces are facing strong resistance eight days into a major offensive in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters dig in to fight to the death.

A U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th ...

A U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines runs for cover during a heavy gun battle in Helmand province February 21, 2010. NATO forces are facing strong resistance eight days into a major offensive in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters dig in to fight to the death.

U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines  ...

U.S. Marines from Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines run for cover through a canal during a heavy gun battle in Helmand province February 21, 2010. NATO forces are facing strong resistance eight days into a major offensive in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters dig in to fight to the death.

A U.S. Marine takes runs through a field after igniting a smoke  ...

A U.S. Marine takes runs through a field after igniting a smoke grenade to mark a landing zone for a U.S. Army Task Force Pegasus helicopter during a medevac mission, in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sunday Feb. 21, 2010. Pegasus crews have come under fire nearly every mission in Marjah while evacuating the wounded, as U.S. and Afghan troops take part in an assault on the Taliban stronghold.

U.S. Sgt. U.S. Ryan Mack, 25, from Defiance, Ohio, spotter at ...

U.S. Sgt. U.S. Ryan Mack, 25, from Defiance, Ohio, spotter at left, talks at the radio as Spc. Thomas Leuthold, 20, from Hills, Minn. sniper takes aim, as all of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, faces Taliban insurgents during a firefight in the Badula Qulp area, West of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010.

From left, U.S. Army Sgt. Erik Grafford, 22, from Missoula, ...

From left, U.S. Army Sgt. Erik Grafford, 22, from Missoula, Mont., sniper, Sgt. U.S. Ryan Mack, 25, from Defiance, Ohio, spotter and Spc. Thomas Leuthold, 20, from Hills, Minn. all of the the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, aim their guns toward Taliban insurgents during a firefight in the Badula Qulp area, West of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010.